Turnbull ‘open-minded’ on constitutional reform

By Angela Dorizas in Melbourne

Federal Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull said he was "open-minded" on constitutional recognition of local government, but offered no definitive position on Geoff Gallop’s proposal to include the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in the Constitution. His comments were made at the Local Government Constitutional Summit  today in Melbourne.

“We are very open-minded in terms of a constitutional amendment proposal to recognise local government,” Mr Turnbull told Government News.

“It is a very live issue. Local government is right at the heart of the political process. Local government is closest to the people and there are powerful arguments for it being recognised in the Constitution, but how it is recognised and what the implications are, these are matters that have to be discussed.

“I am very happy to discuss it constructively with the local government association and to bring any experience they may think I have – not very successful experience obviously – in constitutional reform."

As the former head of the Australian Republican Movement, Mr Turnbull offered his advice on the pursuit of constitutional reform, while addressing the Local Government Constitutional Summit.

"You need to have almost no opposition," Mr Turnbull said. "You are quite a long way from having the overwhelming support that you need."

He said local govenrment needed to strategically build campaign supporters "brick by brick" and ensure state governments were onboard.

When asked by a conference delegate for an assurance that he would not reject constitutional amendment proposals for political gain, Mr Turnbull said he would consider them "on their merits".

"There is no point playing politics on an issue like this," he said.

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